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One of my favorite diner breakfasts has always been (well, at least since I turned into an adult and my tastebuds mellowed) sausage gravy and biscuits. Sausage gravy is breakfast sausage, cooked and crumbled, then stirred into a white sauce made of flour, sausage grease and milk.
The recipe you see below makes a biscuit that's rich and tender, yet strong enough to stand up to gravy without turning to mush. If you don't want to use them as a base for sauce, they're also strong-yet-tender enough to be smeared with softened butter and spread with jam. And, come summer, they're just right for strawberry shortcake.
2 cups (8 1/2 ounces) King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon sugar
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
4 tablespoons (2 ounces) cold unsalted butter
1/4 cup (1 5/8 ounces) cold shortening
1/2 cup (4 ounces) milk, cream, or half-and-half*
1 large egg
*You can use any kind of milk, from skim right up through whipping cream. The richer the milk, the richer and more tender your biscuit will be.
In a medium-sized mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, salt, sugar and baking powder. Cut the butter into pats, and work the butter and shortening into the flour, using a pastry blender, mixer (you can also use a food processor, up to this point), or your fingers. When thoroughly combined, the mixture should resemble uneven, coarse crumbs; don't keep working it till it's perfectly homogeneous. The point is to work the cold fat into the dry ingredients fairly evenly, but so that it still retains its integrity; you don't want the fat to become one with the flour. The uneven, tender texture of biscuits comes from pockets of cold fat in the dough, which in the baking process don't melt till after the dough is set, leaving butter-catching fissures in the baked biscuit.
Measure the milk or cream into a liquid measuring cup, add the egg, and whisk till smooth. Add this to the flour/fat mixture, and stir just to combine; as soon as you no longer see areas that are very obviously wetter than other areas, stop mixing and dump the dough onto a lightly floured work surface. Knead it a couple of times to bring it together, if necessary; remember, every time you push, pat or shape the dough from now on, you're toughening the gluten, and therefore the biscuit, so try to handle it as little as possible. With the help of a dough scraper, shape the dough into a 6- x 6-inch square, about 3/4-inch thick. Run a rolling pin over the top once to even it out. Wrap it in plastic wrap, and place it in the freezer for 1 hour.
Remove the dough from the freezer, unwrap it, and set it on a work surface. It'll be very stiff, but still soft enough to cut with a sharp knife, sharpened dough scraper or rolling cutter (pizza cutter). Cut the dough into nine 2-inch squares, and place the squares on a lightly greased or parchment-lined baking sheet. Make sure to cut out the biscuits with something sharp; if you use a dull knife, you compress the biscuits' edges, and they won't rise as high.
Bake the biscuits in a preheated 400°F oven for 16 minutes, or until they're a light, golden brown. Remove them from the oven, and serve hot, warm or at room temperature. Yield: 9 fairly large biscuits.
Nutrition information per serving (1 biscuit, made with half and half, 62g): 218 cal, 12.8g fat, 4g protein, 20g complex carbohydrates, 1g sugar, 1g dietary fiber, 50mg cholesterol, 370mg sodium, 57mg potassium, 74RE vitamin A, 1mg iron, 132mg calcium, 69mg phosphorus. Note: making biscuits with skim milk instead of half and half reduces calories per serving to 205, fat grams to 11.4.